Bill swung into the saddle, gathered the reins, and clucked to his mount, a frisky dun mustang, one of the horses Rod Owen had bought in Texas. The animal frog-jumped and bucked for a few minutes, but Bill stuck tight and waited out the horse's temper tantrum. The dun would settle down soon and carry him through the morning without further complaint.
Yes, James Owen had sand*, he had to give him that. Who else around here was willing to go toe-to-toe and have it out with Rod Owen? Nobody he knew, including himself right now. Not that Bill thought himself a coward. No, he simply didn't want to leave Colorado Territory and return to Texas just yet. He'd given his word that he'd teach the Owens all the tricks to handling longhorn cattle and the business of selling them. He'd agreed to light here at least that long. Even though he was without kin in this place, it suited him fine to be in the employ of the older man, there being no work just now at home.
Besides which, if I head back now, I'll never see Miss Marie again.
There it was, finally, the hitherto unspoken reason for staying, even though the Owen boys were catching on to every cattle-handling trick he'd taught them faster than he'd supposed it would happen. I don't want to leave here without her.
Bill let out a gusty breath. Now the big bear was flushed into the open, so to speak, and he had to face it or turn tail and run.
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*The word sand was used in past years as part of the expression "sand in his craw" or "sand in his gizzard," referring to the small stones that birds swallow to help grind their food. It is used in the same sense as "grit," meaning a person who has strength of character, pluck, stamina, resolve, courage, and toughness. That, in turn, refers to the toughness of grit or gritstone, the material used to make the stones of a corn mill. Bill's usage is authentic, showing his respect for James Owen in standing up to his father.